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Loan workouts hit record in April, group says

/ Source: The Associated Press

A mortgage industry alliance, under pressure to show progress in its efforts to aid troubled borrowers, says lenders gave a record amount of assistance to homeowners last month.

Statistics released Friday by Hope Now, a group backed by the Bush administration to help stem the mortgage crisis, show that nearly 183,000 borrowers received some form of loan workout in April. That was the highest monthly number since the effort started last summer.

Lawmakers in Congress, however, call the industry’s efforts inadequate. They are pushing for a new $300 billion program to allow the government to back new loans for struggling homeowners. Supporters are hopeful that the measure could clear Congress by July 4.

Consumer advocates say permanent home loan modifications, in which a mortgage company agrees to reduce the interest rate or make other changes, are the best way to help borrowers. The mortgage industry’s statistics include repayment plans, which allow borrowers to get back on track after missing payments.

“Unfortunately the foreclosure numbers continue to outpace their success,” said. John Taylor, president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a consumer group in Washington.

More than 243,000 U.S. homes received at least one foreclosure-related filing in April, up 65 percent the same month last year, according to RealtyTrac Inc.

The Hope Now group, however, said loan servicers, which collect and distribute mortgage payments, have stepped up the pace of loan modifications in recent months. Loan modifications accounted for 42 percent of total workouts in April, up from 19 percent in the third quarter of 2007.

The alliance also claims 1.56 million homeowners have received loan workouts since July 2007. Of those, 30 percent were permanent modifications.

“These numbers clearly demonstrate that Hope Now is succeeding at helping homeowners avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes,” the group’s executive director Faith Schwartz, said in a statement.

Hope Now also said that among the more than 600,000 subprime mortgages that adjusted to higher levels in the first four months of this year, only about 5 percent, were modified. A far greater share, 45 percent, were either refinanced or paid off when a house was sold.

Members of Hope Now include Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Washington Mutual Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co.